A common sense business

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Big Red Sales has a unique standing in the UK electrical market. John Reddington, BRS’s director and founder, told Anna Ryland, how his common sense approach to business works and what his plans are for the company.

Big Red Sales was founded as a sales ‘repping’ agency in January 2009. John Reddington used a similar business concept while managing Alphason Designs.

“During the initial period at Alphason we didn’t have resources to have a sales force on the road so we explored the solution which is used in Europe and in the US – the sales agents’ route. They are self employed but they handle the business as if they were employees but they work on commission,” explains John Reddington.

BRS has grown every year since its inception, increasing its turnover four-fold since 2009. “Most importantly, we are profitable,” stresses John. “Initially we had five agents, now we have eleven, and BRS represents five brands.

“In the past our brand portfolio wasn’t as consistent and stable as it is now. We have been dealing with Sennheiser for three and half years, two years with Vogel’s, over two years with Linsar, and seven months with Yamaha. Most recently we started working with Danish accessory company AM.”

How does the company select its brands? “There has to be an understanding between the manufacturer and us. Their marketing policies and philosophies have to be intertwined, they should be independent-driven, margin-generating and service-focused. The majority of our brands are high end – they are the leaders in their product category and have distinct USPs. All these brands need selling and demonstrating and they offer good margins. This makes them a perfect fit for the independent.”

Although BRS’s primary focus is the independent channel, the company also deals with multiple retailers such as John Lewis, Co-op, Boxclever, Comet and Scottish Hydro.

“In 2010, we had less than ten retailers only stocking one of our brands. At present we are dealing with over 1,000 retail businesses. Many of our customers are now stocking all our brands as they feel increasingly confident working with us.”

What is key to BRS’s success?

“It all comes down to common sense. I have forty years’ experience in the industry. I have seen many companies that couldn’t make decisions because they were paralyzed by bureaucracy, and the companies that cut back their reps but increased back room staff. We are a lean organization and we are  customer-service oriented. We also make a profit – this gives the customers and the dealers the tools to do the job. When you take the face-to-face contact away, you remove the personal relationship. You also remove the brochures and PoS and the camaraderie – and you alienate the retailers. We visit our customers often and made them feel that they are a part of the team. We are like a Liverpool FC or Tottenham Hotspur’s team where everyone is pulling on the same piece of rope. Everyone in the company – whether a salesman or a PR person – knows that they are making an important contribution.” 

Five years ago John Reddington ‘retired’ after selling Alphason to Armour. Bored with permanent holidays, he re-entered the industry in 2009, launching Big Red Sales. What drives him? “It was my mum who said to me when she was 77 – whatever you do, don’t retire. She had a small business buying and selling property and regretted stopping as early as she did. She greatly missed the stimulation and challenge of building her business. I like the industry, have lots of contacts and I enjoy going to the industry’s events and meeting people with whom I developed  great relationships.”

What about the future? “I have more than one vision for BRS. I have recently been contacted by a traditional furniture distributor asking to represent his brand in the furniture sector. This would broaden our area of operation beyond what we have done before. This is where I see the future: why don’t we expand BRS into other areas such as furniture, toys or pharmaceuticals or any other industry? We are also talking to a very large Far Eastern company who has asked us to handle their brand in the UK electrical market.” It appears that sky is the limit for BRS.

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